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Monday, December 17, 2012

Robin Essay: ‘A Little Child Shall Lead Them’

Sunday at church, the service began with several worshipers of all ages gathered at the altar around 28 white candles. And several minutes of silence.

Well it was supposed to be silent.

We were late, as usual, so we stood in the back, where a couple dozen tiny congregants waited to make their grand entrance with bags of gifts that church members had brought to donate to the City Mission Society.

They were four, five or six years old, readying the bags that were bigger than they were and that crackled and snapped like paper bags will. Their wranglers shushed them, which only led to more bag rearranging. It was a cacophony of sound during what was supposed to be a silent remembrance. And it was beautiful.

The service began, the tots now making their way down the aisles behind the choir to the tune of Hymn 114, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” walking like drunken sailors, the way little kids do, especially when dragging oversized shopping bags dressed in what’s come to pass for Sunday best in our very casual church: party dresses maybe over pants and hair every which way. What was it the coroner said of the children of Sandy Hook? They wore “cute kids’ things?”

The peace greeting went from handshake to teary hugs.

Later, a very brave clergyman delivering the homily foolishly (he’d say later) thought he could make it through the line, “And a little child shall lead them.”

Next week, we’ll all meet again for the annual un-pageant!! On every seat in the pews, a crown, a piece of cloth for the shepherds, felt lambs ears for the sheep. Angels’ tinseled halos  And when it comes to our part in the reading of the Christmas story, we will, sheep and shepherds and wisemen and angels, ascend to the altar to take our place in a wacky tableau until no one is left seated.

I don’t really feel like it this year, but will do it so those tiny tots in “cute kids’ clothes” know that we are there for them.

And because, after all, in their goofball way, they will lead us.


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  • Sanyuaya

    Song ID for “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” that you ended with?

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Hi Sanyuaya, It’s “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles (from the album Advent at Ephesus). 

  • Conniecity901

    I have avoided watching or seeing anything related to the shooting. But as I drove to work listening to NPR, my usual communte ritual, I was drawn in… I couldn’t not listen.. I felt like I was there in the sanctuary with you. I could see, smell, and hear everything. A sweet tribute. I liked it. I thank you. I am sharing it.

  • cjgart

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute. It was touching and thoughtful; another step in healing as we grapple with sadness in a season of joy. I pray for the survivors, the families, the children.

  • Guest

    Hi Robin,

    Your comments at the end of your show today were beautiful.  Merry Christmas.

  • Mary Ann

    So lovely, Robin.  Heard this in the car and had to come home and print it out.  Your wonderful description of your church service reflected the best in faith, community, and that tender place where we simultaneously teeter between sadness and hope.
     
    I suspect your faith community reflected a similar experience around our nation. Thank you for another balanced program and profoundly inspiring ending reflection.

  • Joanna

    Thank you for this. As a pastor, I am struggling with how to acknowledge our brokenness and darkness even as we celebrate the light of Christ. This essay brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that what we do together in church on Sunday mornings does matter.

  • Karin

    Heard this in my car on the way to pick up some Christmas gifts (like your pageant, I don’t really feel like it this year) and had to compose myself in the parking lot before heading in to the store. Beautiful.

  • (Rev.) Mary Luti

    Thank you, Robin. Listening to you today I was so so proud of my former congregation, and remembered with extra fondness the many ways in which they bless each other and the world… just by being real and faithful people, ordinary in such an extraordinary way. I miss them tenderly, and I am more grateful every day for the privilege of having been one of their leaders. And I miss seeing you in that back pew, too!

  • Yowly06

    I was driving home from the grocery store when I heard the end of today’s show. I”ve been teary eyed since Friday .. but your beautiful words made me stop the car and just let the grief pour out. We must find a way to protect our children … those who are innocent and those who are ill.

  • Leslie

    This piece was so good, so touching.  I loved it! Love your show

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mark.David.Spence Mark Spence

    Re. the Athens, GA statement.
    A well regulated militia (ie., the National Guard as it has functioned since the Civile Rights Era, makes such an armed uprising pointless. More importantly, one small incident in Georgia more than six decades ago hardly counters the many murders since the end of the Assault Weapons ban just a decade ago.

  • Lelisa2

    We as a nation have become to comfortable with murder and mayhem. We watch the murder and slauter of children and leaders (wether we like them or not) on television with our children in full view of the senseless violence. We play games, allow and often times participate in or with our children, were life is disposable like the wipes in our bathroom dispencers.  We  revel and brag about the murder or ” sanctioning” of someone we dislike or  disagree with and we grorify those who believe “preemptive strikes” are justified by press manipulation and control. 
    The bible said we would have to become like children but we are making them more like us…uncaring, unloving and unsaved.

  • Ron

    I heard this Monday as I was driving, and thought it so well done. I’ve never written before, but wanted to thank you, Robin, for this particular essay. Blessings to you.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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